University of Texas at Austin

Stanley Burnshaw:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Burnshaw, Stanley, 1906-2005
Title: Stanley Burnshaw Papers
Dates: 1927-1987 (bulk 1945-1987)
Extent: 29 document boxes, 1 oversize box (24 linear feet), 14 galley folders
Abstract: The papers of American poet and literary critic Stanley Burnshaw primarily consist of notes, outlines, research materials, and drafts associated with his numerous literary pursuits. A quantity of correspondence is also present containing often detailed exchanges between Burnshaw and other writers, editors, publishers, scholars, and critics.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00620
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchase and gift, 1987-1989 (R11339, G8261)
Provenance This collection was purchased from Mr. Burnshaw in 1987, and was supplemented by a 1989 gift from Paul Rogers, consisting of correspondence which Rogers received from Burnshaw.
Processed by Melissa Truitt-Green, 1993; revised Joan Sibley, 1994; revised by Kris Kiesling, 1997

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Stanley Burnshaw, born in New York City on June 20, 1906, is a poet, critic, novelist, playwright, publisher, editor, translator, and scholar recognized primarily for his poetry and literary criticism. Burnshaw is probably best known as the author of The Seamless Web (1970), a study of the ontology of poetry and an analysis of its role in human life. Burnshaw's father served as the director of a home for Jewish orphans that attracted nationwide attention and a visit from President Taft. Both of his parents had immigrated to the United States from eastern Europe. Burnshaw movingly tells his father's story in "My Friend, My Father," Book III of The Refusers (1981). This is the best source for information on Burnshaw's early life, presented through the eyes of his father. My Friend, My Father was published as a paperback in 1986 by Oxford University Press. Burnshaw's mother's flight is recounted in his poem "House in St. Petersburg" (collected in Caged in an Animal's Mind, 1963).
Burnshaw enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 1922, transferred to Columbia University in 1924, and transferred back to the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his B.A. in 1925. He had planned a career as a teacher and writer; however, he took a job as an advertising copywriter with the Blaw-Knox Steel Corporation in Blawnox, Pennsylvania, to support himself and to save the money for a year of graduate study in Europe. During this period Burnshaw wrote poetry, some of which was published in little magazines, such as the Midland, Voices, and in volume one of The American Caravan (1927), an influential anthology of avant-garde writing edited by Van Wyck Brooks, Alfred Kreymborg, Lewis Mumford, and Paul Rosenfeld. Burnshaw started his own magazine, Poetry Folio, in 1926, setting the type himself. During the late Depression era, Burnshaw's poetry and literary criticism reflected Marxist ideas; however, his political works never reflected a doctrinaire rigidity--merely a desire to better the lot of those most degraded by poverty and industrialism by portraying them honestly.
In 1927, Burnshaw went to Europe to study at the University of Poitiers and later at the Sorbonne. During this period he met and began a long association with the French poet André Spire--his André Spire and His Poetry appeared in 1933. The essays and translations in this book reveal Burnshaw's knowledge of European literature and languages as well as Spire's influence on Burnshaw. In 1928, Burnshaw returned to America and worked as the advertising manager for the Hecht Company in New York and continued his graduate studies at New York University. During this time he also wrote some free-lance literary criticism. In 1932, he resigned from the Hecht Company to begin a year's post-graduate work at Cornell University, from which he graduated with a Master's Degree in 1933.
From January 1934 until July 1936, Burnshaw was co-editor, drama critic, and occasional book reviewer for the New York weekly The New Masses. Burnshaw's writings continued to focus on social injustice throughout the 1930s. Two works that exemplify his thematic focus during this period are The Iron Land (1936), which depicts poetically the lives of steel mill workers, and the verse play The Bridge (1945), which explores the consequences of technology distorted by greed. During the late 1930s Burnshaw became increasingly involved in publishing, first as editor-in-chief for the Cordon Company in New York, then as president and editor-in-chief of his own firm, the Dryden Press, which merged with Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1958. He remained a vice-president and consultant to the house until 1968.
The Revolt of the Cats in Paradise (1945), a satiric, book-length poem, marks his rejection of Marxism as a solution to socio-economic problems. He lectured on Studies in World Literature at New York University's Graduate School of Book Publishing from 1958-1962. During this period, his work reflected a scholarly frame of reference rather than a political agenda; however, he remained politically active and aware of political issues. In 1960 he edited The Poem Itself, a book that imparts an understanding of modern poems in other languages without recreating the poem in English verse; instead, the poems are translated literally and accompanied by an analytical essay that explicates the nuances, idioms, and allusions unique to each work. The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself (1965) uses the same format (literal translation accompanied by an essay) to explicate Hebrew poems for English language readers. He also edited Varieties of Literary Experience (1962), an anthology of literary essays including his own "The Three Revolutions in Modern Poetry." His next collection of poetry, In the Terrified Radiance (1972), includes "The Hero of Silence," a sequence of poems on the life of Mallarmé. The Hero of Silence was originally published in 1965 in The Lugano Review and subsequently issued as a pamphlet. Mirages (1977), is a collection of poems dealing with modern Israel. It was later included as an epilogue to The Refusers (1981).
In his later years, Burnshaw divided his time between New York and his home in Martha's Vineyard. He received an award for creative writing from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1971, and in 1983 he was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion. The distinguished London poetry magazine Agenda honored him with a " Special Stanley Burnshaw Issue" with the Winter-Spring 1983-1984 issue. In 1986, he published a biography of Robert Frost entitled Robert Frost Himself. The Stanley Burnshaw Reader (1989), provides an excellent overview of his work in poetry, translation, literary criticism, and biography. Three weeks before his ninetieth birthday, the City University of New York awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree. Burnshaw died on September 16, 2005 in Martha's Vinyard.

Scope and Contents

The Stanley Burnshaw Papers consist of notes, outlines, research materials, typescript drafts, galleys, page proofs, clippings, and correspondence, 1927-1987 (bulk 1945-1987). The material is arranged in two series, Works, 1933-1987 (22.5 boxes) and General Correspondence, 1927-1987 (6.5 boxes).
Burnshaw's post-1945 poetry, translations, and criticism are particularly well represented in this collection. Extensive files are present for The Poem Itself (1960), Robert Frost Himself (1986), and The Seamless Web (1970). Other works represented in this collection include Caged in an Animal's Mind, The Hero of Silence, Mirages, The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, The Refusers, The Revolt of the Cats in Paradise, and Varieties of Literary Experience. Burnshaw's creative processes can be followed through the extensive notes, correspondence, and research information he kept for each of his projects, and the revision and refinement of his works can be traced from typescript drafts through page proofs. His considerable input into the styling, production, and promotion of his books is also evidenced in extensive comments and letters to authors, editors, publishers, printers, and critics. Published reviews and essays show the critical response to his works. Additionally, Burnshaw's own activities as an editor and publisher (in conjunction with projects involving Edward Dahlberg, Nahum Goldmann, David Ben-Gurion, Laura (Riding) Jackson, Christina Stead, Lionel Trilling, and Louis Untermeyer) are documented, as are his relationships with numerous other writers and scholars in various intellectual fields.
The papers also contain information about Burnshaw's childhood and family heritage in letters, notes, and papers of his father and other family members, which were gathered as source material for The Refusers and My Friend, My Father. In addition there is valuable information about his family relationships, especially with his wife Lydia "Leda" Powsner Burnshaw and his daughter Valerie, in both series.
Burnshaw's correspondence frequently consists of detailed exchanges about work-in-progress with other writers, editors, publishers, scholars, and critics. There are substantial files of correspondence, sometimes reflecting personal relationships as well as professional ties, with such varied figures as T. Carmi, Edward Dahlberg, James Daly, James Dickey, Dudley Fitts, Robert Frost, Norman Fruman, Nahum Goldmann, Josephine Herbst, Laura (Riding) Jackson, Haniel Long, John Frederick Nims, Paul Rogers, Gregor Sebba, Karl Shapiro, André Spire, Christina Stead, Lionel Trilling, Louis Untermeyer, Wade Van Dore, and others. A list of all correspondents in the papers can be found at the end of this inventory.
The collection contains substantial information concerning the topics of modern literature (especially poetry) and its practitioners, the translation of poetry (from French, German, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish), literary criticism, publishing and editing (including Burnshaw's activities with the Dryden Press and Holt, Rinehart and Winston), and the Jewish experience.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

Several other collections at the HRHRC include further Burnshaw materials: James Donald Adams, William Burford, Contempo, Edward Dahlberg, John Gassner, Robinson Jeffers, Willard Maas, Kenneth Patchen, and Idella Purnell Stone.
For information concerning books acquired by the HRHRC from Burnshaw's library, see the Collections File and/or the online catalog, UTCAT.

Index Terms


Aiken, Conrad, 1889-1973
Alter, Robert
Bellow, Saul
Ben-Gurion, David
Bly, Robert
Brown, Calvin S. (Calvin Smith), 1909-
Carmi, T., 1925-
Ciardi, John, 1916-
Cummings, E.E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962
Dahlberg, Edward, 1900-1977
Dale, Peter, 1938-
Daly, James, d.1943
Dickey, James
Donoghue, denis
Edel, Leon, 1907-
Edwards, Alfred Conway
Fadiman, Clifton, 1904-
Feibleman, James Kern, 1904-
Fitts, Dudley, 1903-
Fitzgerald, Robert, 1910-
Florit, Eugenio, 1903-
Frost, Robert, 1874-1963
Fruman, Norman
Gassner, John, 1903-1967
Goldman, Nahum, 1895-1982
Herbst, Josephine, 1892-1969
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, inc.
Hugo, Howard E.
Ignatow, David, 1914-
Jackson, Laura (Riding), 1901-
Jarrell, Randall, 1914-1965
Laughlin, James, 1914-
Long, Haniel, 1888-1956
Lowell, Robert, 1917-1977
Lytle, Andrew Nelson, 1902-
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-
Montale, Eugenio, 1896-
Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972
Nims, John Frederick, 1913-
Patchen, Kenneth, 1911-1972
Paz, Octavio, 1914-
Peyre, Henri, 1901-
Rahv, Philip, 1908-1973
Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968
Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905-
Rogers, Paul
Sebba, Gregor
Shapiro, Karl Jay, 1913-
Singer, Isaac Bashevis, 1904-
Spicehandler, Ezra
Spire, André
Spivak, John Louis, 1897-
Stead, Christina, 1902-
Sutton, William Alfred, 1915-
Tate, Allen, 1899-
Trilling, Lionel, 1905-1975
Untermeyer, Louise, 1885-1977
Van Dore, Wade
Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972
Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-
Wiesel, Elie, 19285-
Wilbur, Richard, 1921-
Willkie, Wendell L. (Wendell Lewis), 1892-1944


American poetry--Jewish Authors
Ben-Gurion, David, 1886-1973
Editors--United States
Frost, Robert, 1874-1963
Hebrew poetry, Modern
Jewish authors
Jews--United States
Poetry, modern--United States
Poets, American--20th century
Publishers and publishing--United States

Document Types

Book reviews
Christmas cards
First drafts
Galley proofs
Instructional materials

Stanley Burnshaw Papers--Folder List